Ambition. It’s such a laden word isn’t it? On the one hand to be admired, on the other something that springs to mind scheming courtiers looking to overthrow the King in a bygone era. As women, we’re constantly reminded how important it is to be ambitious. That even though this isn’t the era of shoulder-pads and big hair any longer, we are still meant to strive to have it all.
If you’re a regular blog reader or Instagram follower, you’ll know I work full-time. In the traditional, old-fashioned sense of the word, leaving my home to go to an office and work somewhere else, for someone else. I’ve been working full-time for the last 15 years, more or less since finishing university. But am I ambitious or climbing a career ladder? No.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy at work. I do something I feel relatively passionate about with a great group of people. It’s convenient and flexible in an amazing part of London. But it’s also a means to an end, something that helps to pay the mortgage and allow us to have a good quality of life in the city we love (which just so happens to be eye-wateringly expensive).
I feel like I would be judged if I confessed to not being ambitious in the workplace. That women the world over will be tutting and reminding me that previous generations died so that we could have the freedom to work. But I want to shout ‘STOP! Why is ambition all about the workplace? Why can I not focus on my life outside of work? Why does it have to be all I think about?‘
It was this article from The Pool that I read a few days ago that just resounded so much with me. LIFE is surely the place to focus energy, no? The time that is ours to do as we please. To scale the highest mountain, to dive to the bottom of the ocean. Or simply to curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good book. Why should work take all our best, so that there’s nothing left for life other than exhaustion and gripes, the early nights and the cup-a-soups?
So I’m calling bullshit on work ambition. If you’re heading to a stratospheric plane, bravo and keep going! To the rest of you, think about everything you’ve achieved so far and give yourself a hearty slap on the back. Because I bet some of it was a struggle, that at times you wanted to throw in the towel, and maybe you did. That’s ok too. But it’s wrong that we should only be defined by what we achieve in the corporate space.
Can’t we also celebrate other achievements? I’m proud for example to have recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. To have bought our wonderful home in London which was a huge ambition of mine when I first moved to this crazy city by myself at 22. That we have our incredible furbaby family who make me so, so happy every day. Much happier than work.
Proud to have spent 6 years as a Samaritan volunteer at the Central London Branch, the largest branch in the country. I learned so very much and met some amazing people. By the end of my time there, I was a Co-Director, consulting on national policy about suicide prevention. This I did alongside my full-time job.
Proud to have spent 8 years running my own online business selling children’s clothes. For about 6 years of that, I spent most weekends trading at markets in and around London, exhausting but thrilling at the same time. Learning how to file my own accounts, deal with a VAT registered company and endless stock-taking. This I did alongside my full-time job.
And now here we are, working very slowly towards our forever-home renovation which in itself has taught me so much. I never imagined I’d find painting therapeutic or care so much about windows. That it would have taken me full circle from my beginnings in journalism to back writing again, just in a blog format instead. I’m so, so happy.
There’s still so much to do, too! New countries to explore, new memories to make, new adventures to have. Life is so short, we have to grab the time that’s ours. Ambitious at work? Forget it, I don’t need that aggravation. Ambitious in life? Hell Yes.
Follow me on Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter
There’s very few things I feel ‘the guilt’ about but not being ambitious career-wise sneaks up on me and bites me on the bum sometimes. I’m 90 percent content with stepping back from the workplace and now working for myself alongside being at home for the kids. For the most part, I have the best of both worlds. But it’s something I find really hard to explain when talking to super ambitious people. I’m ambitious in so much as I’m very protective of my time and what I fill it with … I just find it hard to justify to other people why that’s not always work and conquering the world.
I completely understand Rachel – I have a similar issue when talking to people about not having children, they look at me as though my life couldn’t possibly be fulfilling but it is, just in different ways, as you’ve found with ambition. Thanks so much for commenting X
Completely with you Lins, I definitely don’t feel defined by career and imagine that when I look back on life from a grand old age it will be the very last thing that mattered. I also learnt something new about you, had no idea about Samaritans, you are a fabulous person and I’m very happy to know you xx
You’ve definitely got the right approach Ruth and I agree, very few people would swap life experiences for a career I don’t think. Thanks so much for your lovely comment Xx
Completely agree with your words.
I left my job in a nursery 9 weeks ago I use to do 10 hour days and a commute of a hour each way on a grid locked motor way traffic and work at home too. I had no life was always exausted in less than 4 years I had become the deputy manager and wanted more.
Now I work in recruitment for nurserys i work 9 to 5 with a 20 minute commute over the countryside hills I never work from home and have no worries.
Life is no about plans for our home, holidays and life with my partner and fur baby.
Suzanne thank you so much for your lovely comment and it literally makes me soo happy when I come across people on the same wavelength. I’m delighted you’ve realised what it’s important for yourself and happiness. Have a wonderful day!